After crossing the 4 billion subscriber threshold at end of 2008, there are now 5 billion mobile connections globally, says research firm Wireless Intelligence. Mobile handset adoption will continue to grow — WI estimates the world will see 6 billion connections by the mid-2012. But such growth isn’t being driven by areas such as Europe and the U.S. where adoption rates are already high. Leading the drive to 6 billion is the Asia-Pacific region — specifically China and India — now accounting for 47 percent of all connections world-wide, and up 5 percent from 18 months prior.
From a technology standpoint, GSM and W-CDMA networks continue to dominate the globe, accounting for 89 percent of the world’s mobile market. CDMA devices still hold a lead in the U.S. thanks to Verizon and Sprint, but that will change as Verizon moves forward with a GSM-compatible Long Term Evolution network over the next three years.
Since the WI report focuses mainly on handset subscribers, I wonder if its own future estimates are low. As more devices become connected through the Internet of things, the overall connection numbers should rise accordingly. E-book readers such as the Kindle, automobiles, upcoming and current tablets, not to mention cameras, are all getting connected. Combined with continued growth in the Asia-Pacific area and infrastructure maturity in emerging markets, connected gadgets could push the world’s connection numbers beyond 6 billion sooner rather than later. Indeed, Hans Vestberg, Ericcson’s CEO, expects 50 billion connected devices by 2020 — a number the carriers should pay attention to for strategic planning.
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